INTERVIEW ERIN WALSH
PHOTO CHRISTIAN HOGSTEDT
MEET Kirby Howell-Baptiste. SBJCT spoke with Kirby about her latest project, QUEENPINS, why she doesn’t like being asked about “using her platform”, and what she would rather get into and how she is here for the work. Read on for more…
JACKET Moincaivena HOOPS Jennifer Fisher Jewelry
Erin Walsh Hi Kirby! Thank you so much for taking the time to have some fun with us- we are so excited to feature you and all you have been up to. I would love to start at the beginning- tell us a bit about your background and how you got started as an actor in the first place…
Kirby Howell-Baptiste I started acting classes at maybe 8 years old…maybe 10, I don’t really remember. I say “acting class,” but anyone who went to Anna Scher knows it was more community center/sociology class/North London kids club. That’s where I first caught the buzz, as they say. After that, I did drama in secondary school, at A-levels and then, after not one, but two gap years, I went to drama school…where I dropped out after two semesters.
EW You managed to have quite the year professionally, despite covid and lockdown and all of it. From CRUELLA to your latest film, QUEENPINS, it seems the world is watching. Do you personally notice or feel any shift with all this happening? Or is it more about focusing on the work?
KHB I’m always focused on the work. It’s the work that I love and the work that I’m here for. As for the world watching or me noticing a shift? Sometimes. When someone recognizes me on the street or at the supermarket, it’s nice but it always catches me off-guard.
DENIM JACKET AND SKIRT Alexander Wang TOP Versace CHOKERS Versace RING AND EARRINGS Jennifer Fisher Jewelry
EW Tell us about QUEENPINS and your character, JoJo Johnson. What can we expect from the film? What do you hope audiences take from it?
KHB Queenpins is a comedy starring myself and Kristin Bell as a pair of women who amass a fortune through an elaborate coupon scam. It’s based on a true story. As for the audience’s take away, my real answer is that billion dollar corporations are not hurting and if you find a loophole in the system, take it. The Cotton-candy answer is that billion dollar corporations are not hurting and if you find a loophole in the system, take it.
EW Any insight into finding Jojo?
KHB Jojo is motivated and ambitious. Her business acumen is the reason she takes risks. The way she sees it: big risk, big reward. Tapping into my own sense of ambitions and the feeling of wanting more, is where I found JoJo.
EW How do you go about deciding what projects to take on?
KHB I read the sides and then the script and if it’s something I’d love to watch, it’s often something I’d love to be part of.
EW What is most helpful in the process of finding a character?
KHB Putting your ego aside and focusing less on how a character looks but rather how it feels to see the world through their eyes.
EW What helps you stay sane and tethered these days?
KHB I’m not sure any of us are sane and I definitely don’t think we’re all tethered to the same reality. Lately, getting back to the gym has helped me keep so semblance of sanity.
EW Any dream role you hope to come your way?
KHB No dream role per se but there’s still a lot I haven’t done yet. I’m open to anything, I just want to work on cool projects with cool people.
TOP Dead Lotus Couture
EW Do you consider acting or the arts as a vocation or something you were called to do?
KHB I don’t know if I was called to it, I think the seed of every passion is curiosity. I started acting as a kid and my curiosity is what keeps me going. I want to explore all facets of my craft, be it acting, directing, producing…
EW What are your thoughts on purpose- like do you see a greater meaning in your work and what you are called to do? And what else do you feel particularly called to do?
KHB I don’t know about a greater meaning, I think it’s enough that people can watch a show and be transported (or distracted…equally important) for 30 mins or an hour. Shows or movies or characters or iconic lines can live on forever. I think that’s pretty spectacular.
SWEATSUIT Ezgi Cinar HARNESS Dolce & Gabbana RINGS House of Emmanuele EARRINGS House of Emmanuele BOOTS Paris Texas
EW What inspires you?
KHB When it comes to work everything inspires me. I can watch a really amazing show, with riveting performances and be inspired to dig deeper in my own work. Or I can watch something terrible and strive to do better.
EW How do you connect your spirit with your work and your day to day?
KHB I have no idea.
EW What are some of your favorite ways to pay it forward? Any charities or causes we should know about?
KHB Small, unpublicized acts of kindness are what I live for; doing something big or small that makes someone’s day. As for charities or causes, the list is endless. If you’ve been paying attention, even if only for the last year, you will have come across countless worthy causes to get involved with or donated to. I think sometimes we focus so much on public virtue signaling but forget to think about directly helping the people we interact with daily. Pay it forward by tipping more than usual (the service industry is harder than ever), carry singles so you can help people who may ask, go to bat for someone who may not be given an opportunity if not for you.
SHORTS AND BAG Louis Vuitton BATHING SUIT Norma Kamali JACKET Moincaivena BOOTS Rinaldyyunardiofficial
EW Anything in the way of a motto you subscribe to?
KHB I don’t have a specific motto. I can be high-strung so when I start to get stressed out, I try to focus on the big big picture and let the little things go. It’s a process.
EW Tell us how you use your platform to pay it forward.
KHB Everyone has an opinion. I don’t think the option of someone in the public eye holds more importance than anyone else but it does reach more people. I think it’s important for people to realize that fame, (though more spread out in the age of social media), is still niche, it’s a bubble; and the bigger a person becomes, the less in touch they are. I know that my world has and is changing, so I try to only speak on what I know, and you can’t know everything.
YELLOW SET Dead Lotus Couture
EW How do you like to spend your days when you aren’t working?
KHB I like to cook something new or go and see a movie.
EW Do you keep anything in the way of a 5 or 10 year plan?
KHB I don’t. I’ve learnt my lesson. The best laid plans of mice and men…
EW What makes you hopeful after a year of pandemic life?
KHB Building closer bonds with the people who matter the most.
EW What makes you excited about the coming year?
KHB I have no idea what I’ll be working on next year and that’s really exciting to me.
EW What do you wish people would stop asking you in interviews?
KHB Anything about “using my platform”. We’re all humans, we all want and need the same things and we can all do better in recognizing those commonalities in others. You don’t need to look to someone with a “platform” to know that. In general, I’m less interested in people’s words and more interested in their actions.
EW Book we should be reading?
EW What do you wish you were asked more in interviews?
KHB I wish I were asked more about food. I could talk about food for hours. I also love ‘this or that/would you rather’ questions. My best friend and I are always grilling each other with ‘would you rather’s?’.
EW What should we be watching?
KHB Hacks on HBO Max.
EW What should we be eating?
KHB Taco Bell.
EW What’s your SBJCT Kirby? What really moves and inspires you?
KHB I’m inspired by all the choices and sacrifices I now see that my mum and Nan had to make in order for me to be able to live the life I’m living.
DRESS Louis Vuitton EARRINGS House of Emmanuele